The Old Sage closes after owner’s $2.4M bankruptcy filing

The $2.4 million bankruptcy of one of the pioneers of Pike/Pine’s explosion as a center of Seattle food and drink investment is behind the sudden closure of 12th Ave’s The Old Sage. While Brian McCracken’s neighboring Tavern Law has not made a similar announcement, rumors of a sale of the early player in Seattle’s renewed craft cocktail scene persist.

The bad news about The Old Sage bar and restaurant, as so much bad news does these days, came over the weekend via Facebook:

Friends of the Old Sage, its with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to you all tonight. We have had a amazing run and truly appreciate all the support you have given us over the years. Our entire staff invites you to join us tonight for one last get together. Come on down, drink some scotch, laugh with us, and lets give The Old Sage one amazing goodbye. 50% off everything we have left, CASH ONLY.

According to documents filed in Western District of Washington United States Bankruptcy Court, McCracken and his wife filed May 20th for chapter 7 protection over some $2.4 million in debts. Included in the filings are some $70,000 in taxes, nearly $50,000 in student loans, $10,000 for a 12th and Madison landlord, $38,000 owed to McCracken’s landlord in Belltown, $26,000 and change to AMEX, a whopping $218,439 to Gravity Payments, and $67,329 to something called Loan Me to go with $5,200 owed to the Money Tree.  Continue reading

On the List | HONK! Fest West brass band festival comes to Capitol Hill

Brass musicians march at a past HONK! Fest 4th of July show (Images: Mike Antares)

Brass musicians march at a past HONK! Fest 4th of July show (Images: Mike Antares)

HONK! Fest West is extending its reach to Capitol Hill.

The free outdoor music festival started in Seattle in 2008, and this year it runs from June 16 to 19 with a visit to Capitol Hill in the middle. Capitol Hill will have its day Friday with professional brass bands playing free live concerts at four locations on the Hill. Festival organizer Mike Antares estimates that about 26 bands will play on the Hill.

“HONK! Fest is about the accessibility of music, which is why they’re in parks, streets, and public spaces,” Antares said.

This is the first year that the festival has included Capitol Hill. Festival organizers were brainstorming earlier in the year about how to reach out to other communities in the Seattle area. “Capitol Hill was at the top of the list,” said Antares. Continue reading

This design agency is renting out its Capitol Hill office to The Real World

The_Real_World,_SeattleMTV’s The Real World is returning to Seattle for its 32nd season with a new home on Capitol Hill. Producers for the reality show have already started building out the set at the 12th Ave Ballou Wright building between Pike and Pine.

The camera-saturated living quarters for a cast of 20-somethings will be inside a space recently vacated by the tech-savvy creative agency Creature. The company began subleasing the space to the show’s producers last month and has since moved its 15-member staff to a coworking space in Pioneer Square. Continue reading

Producers of The Real World have staked out a set on Capitol Hill


The Ballou Wright building on 12th Ave. (Image: Hunters Capital via Facebook)

It has been 18 years since Stephen slapped Irene outside their downtown apartment during a now infamous episode of The Real World: Seattle. The MTV reality show that follows a group of strangers living together for several months may now be planning a Seattle comeback, this time on Capitol Hill.

R.W. Productions, a California-based company linked with the production outfit behind The Real World franchise, filed paperwork last week to create a “movie studio” and temporary residence on Capitol Hill.

The company is proposing $50,000 in alterations to create a residence for 18 months at the 12th Ave Ballou Wright office building between Pike and Pine, according to a permit application filed with the City of Seattle.

MTV has not yet returned requests for comment. UPDATE (5/31): A MTV spokesperson confirmed the next season of The Real World will be filmed in Seattle this year. We have also reached out to building owners Hunters Capital about the temporary makeover. The season finale of The Real World: Go Big or Go Home aired on Thursday.

In addition to its tech and creative tenants like the Creature agency, the Ballou Wright building is also home to new-era juice bar and cafe Juicebox. CHS wrote about the building’s overhaul and tech-savvy tenants here in 2011. For years, the building was home to Klineburger Brothers, one of the largest custom taxidermists in the country.

The 32nd season of the reality show, known for the drunken antics of its subjects, could see an interesting plot line develop between the housemates and their potential neighbors at the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct.

Bunim/Murray Productions have revisited several cities during its 31 seasons of making The Real World, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood’s homegrown series, Capitol Hill, recently released the 14th episode of its second season on Huffington Post.

Capitol Hill now has a Mystic Kombucha tasting room

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6807If you are walking down 12th Ave and the sign is out, you know a small pocket of Capitol Hill food and drink community is open for you to stop in, talk with the people making something new to taste, and have a glass of neighborhood kombucha.

Mystic Kombucha quietly opened its new tasting room and kombucha bar a few weeks back. But the goal has been more to create a hangout than a new point of sale.

“By design, I was like, how can we not have a counter here,” founder Carlos da Silva said on a recent “tour” of the puny eight by fourteen foot space along 12th Ave.

Covered in raw cedar and purposefully reminiscent of a sauna, da Silva’s new Mystic showroom isn’t the kind of place you’ll want to settle into with a laptop. Stopping in for a drink means zero separation between staff and customer. You’ll have no choice but to render an opinion of the kombucha creations on tap. Unless you can take the close-up, face-to-face silence. Give it a try.

“How can we create something in this neighborhood where people feel they can connect with each other,” da Silva said of the genesis for creating a purposefully tiny tasting room. There is reportedly five times more room behind the walls, unused except for a small kegerator and a refrigerator.

Mystic got its start on 12th Ave in the kitchen at nearby Scratch Deli. da Silva and Caitlin Matteson grew the scobies and the business and now go throw “a keg a day” at cafes across the city plus “numerous kegs” every Sunday at the Broadway farmers market. In the meantime, a community of kombucha is growing in Central Seattle. Seattle first kombucha brewery, CommuniTea opened its new facility and tap room at 21st and Union earlier this spring.

da Silva said the goals for Mystic on 12th will remain small. Hours for the tasting room will vary. Watch for the a-frame sign to be out and people hanging out in the streetside space. There will be food and drink pop-ups from like-minded producers from time to time and da Silva said he is also hoping to make the space available for small community gatherings.

“We’re not here to sell you kombucha,” he said. “The real goal is to create intimacy and connection between the people who like kombucha and the people who work for mystic.”

Mystic Kombucha is located at 1711 12th Ave. You can learn more at

Northwest Film Forum tabs next executive director

unnamed-1There is hope, graduating art students of 2016, that those series of unpaid internships will eventually land you a dream arts organization job and Courtney Sheehan is living proof.

Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum announced Tuesday that the 27-year-old one-time college intern, who got her first full-time gig with the 12th and Pike nonprofit in 2013, has taken over as the new executive director.

“Courtney is really good at building relationships, understanding the importance of new ideas, and celebrating the kind of art that draws people together,” said NWFF board president Peter Vogt.

Sheehan’s appointment comes a year after Lyall Bush stepped down as the forum’s previous executive director. Bush, who had been involved with the forum since it opened 20 years ago, now leads the film program at Cornish College of Arts.

The NWFF stands out among film organizations in that it not only screens a wide variety of independent film, but also offers filmmaking classes, rents equipment, and funds local projects. In addition to expanding those elements, Sheehan said she is excited to program more events that mix film with performances and speakers. Continue reading

Stretched too thin? Capitol Hill cheese bar Culture Club to close

LaVigne as Culture Club debuted last November (Image: CHS)

LaVigne as Culture Club debuted last November (Image: CHS)

It turns out Capitol Hill could not support a cheese bar. And it has lost its cheese monger — for now, at least.

“Putting every ounce of yourself into something and then having to admit failure is the hardest thing on earth,” Sheri LaVigne said as she announced the immediate closure of her less than a year old Culture Club cheese bar on 12th Ave.

UPDATE 5/11/2016 3:30 PM: CHS caught up with LaVigne Wednesday — she said she decided to take a break from her phone Tuesday with the closure news adding to what has been a stressful week.

“You have to really know how to promote what you’re doing,” LaVigne said, summing up what she feels like lead to her decision to shut down her businesses. “I think I was resting a lot on the reputation of Calf and Kid.”

Resting isn’t exactly the right word. LaVigne’s hard work wasn’t matched by some of the promotional machinery being deployed in an increasingly mature Capitol Hill entertainment economy. LaVigne said she doesn’t see Culture Club’s closure as a sign of trouble for restaurants and bars around the Hill.

“It’s the opposite. It’s just an explosion. We are so beyond the saturation point,” she said. But in the new environment, it can be easy for something new to get lost in the shuffle. And if costs aren’t kept in check, things can change quickly. Continue reading

At Lark, you’ll soon be eating 12th Ave-grown ‘lettuce and tender herbs’

(Image: Lark)

(Image: Lark)

A Capitol Hill restaurant is taking its dedication to locally sourced ingredients to a new level. Lark announced Friday it is collaborating on an urban garden high above 12th Ave atop the new Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing building:

We are thrilled to be partnering with Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing (CHUC) and Seattle Urban Farm Company in a new venture that redefines ‘local’ for Lark’s food sourcing. CHUC is nearing completion on their home of 12th Ave, a building that will house nine families under a rooftop farm. The farm has always been destined as a space where residents can grow food for their families. Early in the design process it was realized that there would be far more growing space than the residents could put to use for their own needs. We were thrilled to be invited to collaborate.

CHS reported here on the long journey for the families who came together to develop and construct their own multifamily building in the middle of Capitol Hill. The project will also break new ground in urban farming.

“Lark has always put tremendous effort into sourcing our food responsibly and choosing purveyors that adhere to our ideals of sustainability,” the restaurant’s announcement reads.

This partnership with CHUC allows us to take our commitment to the best ingredients to the next level. Lark will have a hand in choosing the crops for the CHUC rooftop garden, and reap a sizable yield each season. This month we’ll plant lettuces and tender herbs – quick crops that we’ll be enjoying by July. We have our sights on heaps of Romano beans, beets, chard and other delicious vegetables later in the summer and into autumn.

Lark joins a small set of Hill restaurants with a patch of dirt available to grow some of their own ingredients including Poppy and its off-Broadway herb garden. Volunteer Park Cafe, too, has a green thumb. Meanwhile, the Wandering Goose has kept its own bees. UPDATE: Add Terra Plata to the garden list.

In late 2014, Lark moved into its new home in the Central Agency building at 10th and Seneca from its longtime 12th Ave location.

Capitol Hill’s cohousing pioneers are ready to move in on 12th Ave

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

“At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

Getting along with apartment building neighbors requires at least a modicum of social grace. Getting along with potentially lifelong neighbors that are also equal owners in a partnership to develop and own a building mandates serious training.

After breaking ground in 2014, and years of planning prior to that including classes in consensus decision making, the members of Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing are ready to move into their new home (and their 12th and Howell building is almost ready for them). You can get a sneak peek of the building on Saturday from 10 AM to 4PM as part of National Cohousing Open House day.

The 12th Ave cohousing development isn’t a traditional cooperative. CHUC residents are their own developers. While tenants in a cooperative or condo building have to eat the costs of a developer’s profit, CHUC residents say there are keeping their costs as low as possible and will essentially impose their own rent control once they have moved in. The nine families making up the community are all equal partners in an company that obtained a loan to develop the building.

Looking back on what it took to get to this point CHUC co-founder Mike Mariano paused when asked if he would do it all again.

“If you think about it too much, you would never do it,” said Mariano, a principal architect at Schemata Workshop. “At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

As Mariano and the rest of the CHUC members discovered, financing is not easy when you’re not trying to simply maximize profits. Developing the property as a community was a means to an end for CHUC — ends that include communal meals and work in the rooftop garden, longterm stability, and a tight-knit support group that will hopefully last a lifetime. Continue reading